THE QUANTUM TOURBILLONAUSTRALIA/UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Michael is a businessman from the world of quantum physics. He gives us his take on collecting from the home of his laboratory.
– What is your name and/or the alias you would like to go by?
Michael J. Biercuk a.k.a “The Quantum Tourbillon”.
I’m also a member and moderator of @Langenation.
– What country are you based in?
Australia & the US
– As a collector, what do you like to collect and what started your collection?
I started very young with a series of $5-$10 Casios before they were popular, most of which I destroyed by not properly understanding water resistance at age 7-10. In high school I bought a design-focused watch from Skagen which I still have, and then my interests largely faded for many years.
However, when I became a senior academic leading my own research team I became inspired to find a “grown up” watch. My first foray in this area was a Rolex Milgauss GV, which was a perfect for the fact that I ran an experimental laboratory using large magnets (the Milgauss is antimagnetic). It felt practical as well as beautiful and professional. I did purchase another Rolex (Deepsea Seadweller) as a sportier model, but then started an ascent up the ladder of high horology. Next came a JLC Master Ultra Thin Moonphase, an FP Journe Chrono Bleu, and finally a true step up to A. Lange & Sohne.
At this stage I’m primarily focused on Lange pieces. I absolutely love the technical prowess they demonstrate in their work as well as their extraordinary attention to detail. Of course I find the Teutonic aesthetic to be quite appealing as well but with Lange I feel a much deeper connection to the heart of their offerings.
I’ve had the privilege of having a private tour of the manufactory with Tino Bobe, Anthonie de Haas, and Wilhelm Schmid which was a truly mindblowing experience. And I’ve been a guest of Lange at SIHH for the last few years. Building a connection with the people behind the extraordinary timepieces has been much more compelling than simple aesthetics to me – and it’s what keeps me engaged in collecting. I’ve truly made wonderful friends in the industry and community in a way I never expected.
– Could you further explain why you collect?
First things first, it’s not for mass accumulation or an ostentatious display of wealth. I think the brands and aesthetics I prefer indicate that stealthiness is a preference for me.
Really, it’s about an artistic connection to my work and life. I work in quantum technology – building some of the most advanced tech on the planet. I run a company in this space called Q-CTRL and am a Professor of Quantum Physics and Quantum Technology at The University of Sydney. Everything I have done over the last 20+ years has focused on this area.
I personally enjoy building links between this field and high horology as a way to humanize the otherwise (seemingly) cold and austere field in which I work. It’s difficult to build a human connection to the quantum mechanical state of a single atom in a trap – but it’s easy to build a connection with a piece of artwork you wear on your wrist. The gap between these two ideas is bridged by the deep links between the history of high horology and the most modern research in quantum technology.
To start, quantum technology is already widely used in precision timekeeping. Atomic clocks access the very stable tick inside of atoms using quantum physics – these clocks simply tick at over nine billion oscillations per second instead of 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 oscillations per second). I therefore feel a deep affinity for houses like Lange that continue to innovate technically in an objectively “obsolete” technology while my own field pushes on the state of the art in the most modern approaches to timekeeping.
Closer to my own work, the Tourbillon shares deep physical links to the techniques my team has developed to stabilize quantum systems against degradation. Ultimately, when I wear a tourbillon watch I’m able to experience my entire career captured as something truly beautiful in metal on the wrist.
Again the work I do is all-consuming and feels very remote from daily experience. It’s really inspiring to find this kind of connection between my career and a true form of modern art.
– Have you ever considered collecting something else other than what you already collect?
Recently I purchased my first Patek Philippe – a 5170P with baguette diamonds on the dial! This was a large excursion for me as I do not enjoy “bling” watches. However, something spoke to me about the aesthetics, the formality, and the subtle hint of decadence provided by the diamond indices.
While I’m not heavily drawn to big commercial brands, I do occasionally find myself longing for a 15500…but only if the insane price bubble dies down. I find the steel APs beautiful, but not so much that I’d willingly get ripped off because something is perceived as desirable.
– Would you care to share any not-so-great collecting experiences?
Fortunately I’ve had almost exclusively positive experiences within the community. I suppose the most negative experiences relate to the false reality that is Instagram. IG has been a great mechanism to build community and share passion among watch collectors (hence, #Langenation), but there are plenty of accounts that focus on ostentatious displays of wealth. I’ve unfollowed a large number of accounts that tended to focus on what to me was the “wrong” side of collecting.
– What’s your opinion on reselling items you have bought for your personal collection?
So far I have bought relatively few pieces and held all of them.
I’m not driven by churn in my collection. Indeed as everyone does I go through phases of what I love wearing; by focusing on the acquisition of pieces that I really loved initially I’ve ensured I have an array of great things to cycle through.
On a more practical level I also wear my watches a bit hard so try not to focus on the hit to resale that comes from scratched bezels.
– As a collector, have you inspired or convinced others to also start collecting?
I wouldn’t presume to suggest I have any level of influence that could accomplish this. However, by being outspoken about my love for mechanical watches I know that a number of colleagues in quantum physics have also spoken more openly about their own interest in watches.
In science – especially academic science – people tend to be quite ascetic when it comes to luxury items. If I’ve allowed some friends and colleagues to open up further and pierce the stereotype, I’m very happy with that outcome.